10 Things Forgiveness is Not

Ephesians 4:32 says, "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." It says "as God and Christ forgave you" - that's how we're supposed to forgive. That means there must be some ways that we're not supposed to forgive. Here's a list of ten things that forgiveness is not.

1. Forgiveness, according to the Bible, is not approving of or diminishing sin.

It’s not saying, “oh man, you know, it wasn’t that big a deal – no biggie,” that kind of thing. Yeah. It actually was a big deal when you got sinned against. Such a big deal that God had to die for that sin. Forgiveness is not approving of or diminishing sin.

2. Forgiveness is not enabling sin.

You see this a lot of times when addicts are in a family, and they’re constantly sinning against the people around them, and then in the name of ‘forgiveness,’ people keep cleaning up their messes. 

And what they’re really doing is they’re actually participating in the addict’s sin by enabling them to keep sinning against God and other people. Forgiveness is not enabling sin.

3. Forgiveness is not denying a wrongdoing.

It’s not saying things like “oh, it never happened. I’ve just moved on. It didn’t affect me.” Yeah, it did affect you. Sin affects people. Forgiveness is not denying a wrongdoing.

4. Forgiveness is not waiting for an apology.

Some people like to say, “I will forgive as soon as they say they’re sorry.” Well, let me just tell you there are some people in your life they’re so toxic, so wicked, they’re gonna keep sinning forever and ever and ever. 

And if you wait for an apology, you will wait until the day you die, and you’ll be tortured by the demonic influence of bitterness and un-forgiveness in your life. Forgiveness is not waiting for an apology. 

5. Forgiveness is not forgetting.

Some people like to say “forgive and forget.” And some people even point to the Bible where it says that God will remember our sins no more. Guys, God is omniscient. God does not forget a single thing that’s ever happened. 

What the Bible means when it says that God will remember our sins no more is this: it means that he does not relate to us on the basis of what we have done. He relates to us on the basis of what Jesus did for us. So, forgiveness is not forgetting. You can’t forget. You can’t forget. 

6. Forgiveness is not ceasing to feel pain.

Some of you just need to hear this in this devotion: just because it still hurts doesn’t mean you failed to forgive. Some people will tell you, “well, man, if you forgiven them, it shouldn’t hurt anymore.” 

You guys remember the Bible says that when Jesus returns on the last day he will wipe away every tear from every eye. What that means is they were going to be crying until Jesus returns. There’s going to be pain until Jesus returns. So just because you forgiven them doesn’t mean that you won’t feel pain anymore forgiveness is not ceasing to feel pain.

7. Forgiveness is not a one time event.

Sometimes they’re gonna keep sinning. If you’ve been sent against very, very greviously, there’s gonna be times where the memory of that sin re- stirs up back in your heart, and you’re gonna have to forgive them over and over and over. 

One of my favorite pastors is I think he’s a Korean pastor name Yonggi Cho. Yonggi Cho, I heard him many years ago. He said, “every day I forgive so many people – because I hate so many people!” And that’s really how it works. 

Just as an example, if your spouse cheated on you, and you genuinely forgave them, there may be times where you see them just talking casually – in completely godly ways – to somebody of the opposite sex, and it stirs up the memory of what they did to you; and forgiveness looks like forgiving over and over and over and over. Forgiveness is not a one time event. 

8. Forgiveness is not neglecting justice.

You can forgive somebody and still call the police. There’s a difference between sins and crimes, and you can forgive sins and still prosecute crimes. So, forgiveness is not neglecting justice.

9. Forgiveness is not trusting.

Guys, this is really, really important. Many years ago, somebody says something like this in a pastoral counseling session: “Hey, my uncle molested and abused our kids, but I’ve forgiven him – can he babysit?” No, he can never babysit ever again! No! Because forgiveness is not trusting.

Trust should be slowly gained and quickly lost. Slowly gained and quickly lost. Forgiveness is not trusting. 

10. Forgiveness is not reconciliation.

Some people will try to hold you emotional hostage and say, “until you’ve reconciled with that person” or “until you’ve reconciled with me, until our relationship’s good, you haven’t forgiven me.”

That’s not what the Bible says! Paul says, “as far as it depends on you live at peace with everybody.” As far as it depends on you. In other words, it takes one person to repent, it takes one person to forgive, but it takes two people to reconcile. 

And you may have forgiven somebody, but they may not have truly repented – or there may have been irreparable relational damage that took place, or trust eroded in a unique way – and reconciliation doesn’t happen. That doesn’t mean that you failed to forgive. 

What is forgiveness?

Here’s what forgiveness is: forgiveness is canceling a person’s debt to you. That’s what forgiveness is – how God and Christ forgave us. It’s looking at a person and saying, “the sin that you committed against me – either you will pay the full price for that sin in hell, or Jesus paid the full price for that sin when He died for you on the cross.

So I choose to cancel the debt that you have because of the sin against me. And here’s the sign that you’ve forgiven them: you genuinely want good things to happen to that person.

After hearing ten things forgiveness is not – there’s what forgiveness is.


Watch this video!

If this video connected with you in some way, and you’d like to find out more about having a relationship with God and how His forgiveness and grace applies to you, a great place to start is praying the prayer below. The words themselves aren’t magic, but if you earnestly pray them and mean them, God will hear you! He’ll help you in ways you don’t understand, and we’ll help you find support and next steps.

The Prayer

Jesus, I don't know You, and I don't know what Your plan is for me. But thank you for coming to die in my place. I'm sorry for anything I've ever done wrong in my life. I don't understand how You could ever forgive me, but if You really would, I would like to accept your free gift of grace and complete forgiveness. Please come into my life and take control, and help me trust You. In Jesus' name I pray,

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